Five Essential Tools for Supply Chain Risk Management

All areas of risk management – including supply chain risk management – involve ‘blind spots’. To be effective in this field, asserts Jake Olcott, risk professionals must account for risks from a wide variety of sources, from bad password management through to geopolitical upheaval.

Supply chain risks can be difficult to detect, unpredictable and fast-moving. Thankfully, technology companies have made the process of managing risk in the supply chain easier. These companies put Big Data, machine learning and Artificial Intelligence (AI) to work in order to increase visibility for risk professionals, giving them the ability to more effectively monitor, prepare for and mitigate supply chain risks.

Depending on the nature of their supply chains, professionals should consider adding at least a few supply chain risk management solutions to their toolbox, among them mapping solutions, environmental risk solutions, code verification solutions, geopolitical risk solutions and, last but by no means least, vendor risk management solutions.

Mapping solutions

One of the most important components of any supply chain risk management programme is an up-to-date map of supplier relationships. The more detail this map includes, the more insights risk professionals can draw from it, in turn helping them to monitor and mitigate supply chain risk.

For most companies, mapping Tier One suppliers is relatively easy. However, true visibility requires knowing who supplies the suppliers. These maps can become very complex very quickly. Relying on humans alone to create and maintain them can lead to missed connections and relationships.

A variety of technology providers have stepped in to solve the problem, leveraging AI to help businesses map their global supply chains and produce automated insights about potential risks.

That’s all well and good for physical supply chains, but what about digital ones? After all, risks to technology vendors like cloud services providers and operations software companies can be just as costly as risks to physical suppliers.

Organisations need to be working with solution providers to use externally-available data to map digital supply chains. These can also be used to identify fourth and fifth tier connections and single points of failure, which could well introduce additional risk.

Environmental risk solutions

AI and Big Data are now being employed to help businesses predict and respond to weather events faster than ever before. These solutions use a combination of forecasting data, real-time updates on infrastructure status, historical data and compliance factors to deliver risk insights that wouldn’t have been possible in days gone by.

Supply chain risk management solutions afford businesses the ability to track the environmental risks affecting shipments. These risks can be quantified and continuously updated, giving risk professionals the power to predict, in real-time, how shipments along their supply chain might be delayed by bad weather.

Code verification solutions

Within a digital supply chain, one of the greatest risks is vulnerabilities introduced by third party code that has been integrated within a proprietary system. This is exactly the kind of threat that caused the major data breach at Ticketmaster. Therefore, solutions like IBM’s ‘AppScan’ and CA Veracode are an integral part of the supply chain risk management toolbox.

All third party code should be scanned for integrity before it’s allowed anywhere near internal systems or data.

Geopolitical risk solutions

With so many businesses relying on suppliers and providers on the other side of the world, it can be easy to overlook geopolitical risks to the supply chain. However, risk professionals in the West cannot be expected to become experts in the complex political realities of China or India, for example. So how can you know whether your critical partners based overseas are at risk?

Believe it or not, technology helps in this arena as well. Aggregating data from social media, news outlets and other sources, this can be analysed with natural language processing and machine learning algorithms. That process can subsequently provide indicators of political risk in near real-time.

Vendor risk management solutions

Jake Olcott

Jake Olcott

Whether we’re talking about physical or digital supply chains, cyber risk is a major consideration. Well-known cyber security events like Heartbleed, Petya and WannaCry can take down huge swathes of a business’ supply chain almost immediately. Every business is subject to cyber threats, and those who are unprepared to defend against them risk operational disruption, regulatory violations and data breaches.

This is where security rating tools can indicate the overall cyber security posture of an organisation based on external-facing data. This information includes metrics related to compromised systems, user behaviour and diligence. Updated daily, these can be used to quickly ascertain how prepared an organisation’s entire supply chain is for the advent of a potential cyber attack.

Armed with this visibility into the cyber risk exposure of their suppliers, risk professionals can take the necessary steps to mitigate any potential issues before they spiral out of control. Not every company needs to use all of these solutions. However, they should undertake continuous monitoring and advanced analytics with a view towards improving visibility into supply chain risk.

Jake Olcott is Vice-President of Government Affairs at BitSight

About the Author
Brian Sims BA (Hons) Hon FSyI, Editor, Risk UK (Pro-Activ Publications) Beginning his career in professional journalism at The Builder Group in March 1992, Brian was appointed Editor of Security Management Today in November 2000 having spent eight years in engineering journalism across two titles: Building Services Journal and Light & Lighting. In 2005, Brian received the BSIA Chairman’s Award for Promoting The Security Industry and, a year later, the Skills for Security Special Award for an Outstanding Contribution to the Security Business Sector. In 2008, Brian was The Security Institute’s nomination for the Association of Security Consultants’ highly prestigious Imbert Prize and, in 2013, was a nominated finalist for the Institute's George van Schalkwyk Award. An Honorary Fellow of The Security Institute, Brian serves as a Judge for the BSIA’s Security Personnel of the Year Awards and the Securitas Good Customer Award. Between 2008 and 2014, Brian pioneered the use of digital media across the security sector, including webinars and Audio Shows. Brian’s actively involved in 50-plus security groups on LinkedIn and hosts the popular Risk UK Twitter site. Brian is a frequent speaker on the conference circuit. He has organised and chaired conference programmes for both IFSEC International and ASIS International and has been published in the national media. Brian was appointed Editor of Risk UK at Pro-Activ Publications in July 2014 and as Editor of The Paper (Pro-Activ Publications' dedicated business newspaper for security professionals) in September 2015. Brian was appointed Editor of Risk Xtra at Pro-Activ Publications in May 2018.

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